Press Release
April 13, 2009


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today cautioned the government against relying too much on the foreign intercession in pursuing the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, warning that such approach does not always yield favorable results.

Pimentel lauded the government's reported move to assess the role of Malaysia in facilitating the peace negotiation in a bid to hasten the resolution of the remaining substantive issues, including the proposed expansion of the area of autonomy or ancestral domain issue.

The assessment was initiated by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, chairman of the negotiating panel of the Government f the Republic of the Philippines, due to the perception that Malaysia has not acted as impartially as expected in brokering or refereeing the talks. Reports said the GRP panel wanted the removal of Malaysian peace facilitator Datuk Othman Abd Razak for allegedly being biased toward the MILF.

"I believe that the government, in undertaking the review, should consider the suggestion of well-meaning quarters to replace Malaysia as third country facilitator. Even Malacañang once floated the idea of asking Indonesia to take the place of Malaysia. I believe this is a sound idea, but why haven't they adopted it?" Pimentel said.

The senator from Mindanao said the assessment is timely in view of the assumption of Najib Razak as prime minister of Malaysia, replacing Abdullah Badawi. He noted while Badawi had assured President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of Kuala Lumpur's continued role in brokering the Mindanao peace talks, Razak has yet to make known his policy on this matter.

Pimentel expressed disappointment that a final peace accord between the GRP and the MILF remains an elusive goal about nine years after the Malaysia accepted President Arroyo's request to mediate the peace talks in 200l.

He said the peace process suffered an irreparable setback when the Memorandum of Agreement Ancestral Domain, forged by both sides in August last year under Malaysia's guidance, was voided by the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional.

The minority leader said that like other lawmakers, he has felt uncomfortable with the choice of Malaysia as peace facilitator because of its conflict of interest arising from its territorial dispute with the Philippines over Sabah.

Pimentel said the unresolved Sabah dispute has cast doubts on Malaysia's ability to objectively carry out its task in the resolving the roots of Muslim insurgency and in the quest for permanent peace in Mindanao.

Moreover, Pimentel said these apprehensions over Malaysia's role have been compounded by it unusual interest in developing the vast Liguasan Marsh between in the Cotabato-Maguindanao areas which are believed to have vast deposits of natural gas and other mineral resources.

The veteran parliamentarian said he is not optimistic about the administration's plan to form an Eminent Persons Group, composed of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former United Nations secretary general Kofi Anan and other world statesmen to help in the peace process.

In the first place, Pimentel noted a Palace's statement that the entry of Blair and Anan will depend on the consent of Malaysia. He recalled that when the United States offered to play a more active role in the peace negotiation during the Bush administration, this did not prosper because it was blocked by Malaysia.

He emphasized that the most important thing that the government must do now is to present an alternative peace and development plan that will truly address the root causes of Muslim insurgency and the aspirations of Muslim Filipinos for genuine autonomous and economic prosperity.

Such objective, according to the minority leader, can be realized through the establishment of a BangsaMoro federal state under the ambit of a federalize Philippine republic.

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